A proposal drawn up by Lancaster University Students' Union (LUSU) President George Nuttall to change the sabbatical officer structure has met with criticism from student media organisations, and contradicts what he previously argued as the lead of the 'No' campaign in the 2018 officer review referendum, threatening to undermine the credibility of his current arguments.
The proposal from Mr Nuttall is to remove and alter the roles of certain sabbatical officers. In summary, 'Campaigns and Communications' and 'Activities' will be removed and replaced with 'Societies' and 'Sports'. The role of 'Welfare' sabb will be changed, with only Union Development and President remaining the same.
A joint statement was released in response to the proposals by the heads of SCAN, LA1TV, and Bailrigg FM (there was no signatory from Take 2 Cinema). The student media organisations announced their opposition to removing a sabbatical officer that was (relatively) dedicated to them, considering that as recently as 2013 the SCAN Editor role was itself a sabbatical position. Some would argue that the loss of this role has meant less focus and fewer resources are now distributed to student media, and that this trend would only increase if the Campaigns and Communications role was removed altogether.
Mr Nuttall previously led the 'No' campaign during late 2018's the 'Big Vote'. This proposal would have replaced the vice-presidents with an activities officer, an education officer (undergraduate), a postgraduate officer, and a welfare officer. The proposals were not carried out after turnout in the referendum was only 6%.
As part of the 'No' campaign, Mr Nuttall argued that the Campaigns and Communications sabb should be retained. In a video posted on LUSU's social media at the time, he said the following:
We need a dedicated Full Time Officer to communicate with the student body, as we have seen recently it's desperately needed.
A look at the 'No' campaign's manifesto will find a more developed argument, which he is now contradicting in his actions as President:
The Union is also proposing to abolish the Vice President Campaigns and Communications. As we have seen by recent actions by the Students' Union it is important to have a Full Time Officer whose purpose is to inform students of what the Union is doing. The removal of the Officer that is responsible for the communication of the Students' Unions message and by splitting that responsibility amongst the rest of the Officers will only make the Union's communication worse.
The changes proposed also go further than Mr Nuttall's manifesto, where he pledged, if elected, to 'examine the viability of splitting up the [Activities] officer role' so that there was better support for societies and sports, which are both currently in the remit of the Activities sabb. Despite the pledge to reexamine the officer roles in his manifesto, the proposal was not made during the well-attended and quorate AGM in October.
The proposal will be taken to a meeting of the Executive Committee on 28th January, which will be livestreamed. The Exec can approve or reject the proposal, or refer it to a referendum, preferendum, student jury, or potentially even a general meeting (the adjourned AGM has yet to reconvene...). Campaigns and Communications sabb Lewis Marriott took to the LUSU discussion board Facebook group to complain that he was 'disappointed by the lack of student consultation this proposed change has been given.' He set out a series of options in a poll, to see which one discussion board users (albeit a very small demographic) preferred. The 'hold a referendum' option was preferred, followed by the 'hold the constitutional convention' option, and in third came Mr Nuttall's preferred choice, approval at the Exec.
The proposal comes as LUSU have so far refused to carry out the Constitutional Convention voted for at the AGM in October, and have instead decided to appoint an external consultant to conduct a governance review. The details of this have yet to be announced, but as the sabbatical officer roles are determined by a bye-law, they do not require a review of the Articles of Association in order to be changed.